Planet Earth’s TV crew witnessed a tragedy in nature while filming a herd of Saiga antelope in Central Asia.
While filming at the calving grounds, the crew first witnessed the beautiful birth of hundreds of antelope, but within three days, 150,000 of them were wiped out, reports The Mirror.
The producer described it as witnessing the ‘extinction of the species’ as the majestic antelope were killed by a very virulent disease.
A preview of Sunday’s grasslands episode…
Producer Chadden Hunter said:
When we were out there in the calving grounds, with hundreds of thousands of females all giving birth at the same time, a very virulent disease swept through the population and killed around 150,000 of them in a matter of three days.
At the time we thought we were watching the greatest natural catastrophe that I’d ever heard of. We watched 150,000 of these magnificent animals die in front of us.
At the time we didn’t know if it was the final extinction of the species, which was devastating, emotionally, for the crew.
The troubling photo above shows a mass grave of dead Saiga, which government teams buried in order to prevent any possible crossover of pathogens from the carcasses to other wildlife or domestic livestock, the Mirror reports.
For the David Attenborough documentary, the team had driven ‘deep into the middle of Kazakhstan’ for days, searching for the ‘amazing’ animal ‘that looks like it’s from another planet’.
Thankfully, this mass wipeout did not spell the end of the Saiga antelope species.
We’ve since heard that the last few mothers and babies we filmed have survived. It was a potent reminder of how fragile yet resilient nature can be.
Here’s a teaser photo for this Sunday’s grasslands episode…you can’t miss an episode with baby lions in!
A huge 9.7 million viewers tuned in to watch Planet Earth II last Sunday, compared with X Factor’s 7.6m.
Which is a pretty comforting stat!